The Top 20 dancers were paired up and set loose to perform routines choreographed by professionals - So You Think You Can Dance just got FOR REAL again y'all! This was the best Top 20 performance episode of the show so far. Typically Top 20 night is a little rough; barely half that pack comes up with good performances and we're very lucky if there is even one that is great. The night where we can all mentally separate the wheat from the chaff. Last night there were only one or two stinkers and the rest were somewhere between "good" and "AMAAAAA-zing." Even Mary and Adam (Shankman, Guest-Judge-of-the-Week) were hilarious.
Phillip and Jeanine - Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon)
I am not a huge fan of Tab and Nap in general. Their style of Hip Hop is usually at least 50% contemporary which is fine once in a while but I really miss Shane Sparks' 100% Hip Hop numbers too. Variety is the spice of life. That said, once in a while Tab and Nap bust out a number that's so good I don't give a shit that it swerves into "Lyrical Hip Hop" territory (that's a term Nigel made up last year to describe their style). Last year's "Bleeding Love" routine was one and this year's first routine, "Mad," is another. I loved this number and I loved the way that Phillip and Jeanine danced it. I'm a fan of Phillip so far, I can't wait to see him dance something a bit further from his wheel house.
Vitolio and Asuka - Broadway (Tyce DiOrio)
A bit of bad luck for these two: Broadway is a tough genre to win fans with on this show anyway, and they followed a great routine. But it was fairly good choreography that they may have been able to really kill with. Unfortunately, while they danced the steps pretty spot-on, they didn't put any real heart or performance or charisma into it. It was like The Other Chelsea and Thayne last season - they just weren't putting enough of themselves into it to win fans. It was flat and cold and didn't inspire excitement.
Jonathan and Karla - Cha-cha (Tony Meredith)
I don't believe I saw Jonathan at all prior to last night, but as I understand it the kid's specialty is ballroom. You could not have proven it last night! There was barely any movement in his entire body. Karla did a pretty good job but Jonathan was stiff as a board. He's cute enough (though he looks about 12 to me) so maybe he'll get the tween vote but that's about his only hope right now.
Grade: Jonathan: C-, Karla: B-
Evan and Randi - Jazz (Tyce DiOrio)
Tyce isn't one of my favorite choreographers but when he gets it right, he knocks it clear out of the park. The routine was emotional and raw and sensual in just the way that one with Will and Red Head was supposed to be last year only this time it actually SMOLDERED! We all know Evan is awesome with the Gene Kelly schtick but I wouldn't have guessed he'd be so good right out of the gate at jazz. And Randi (whose unitards bug by the way) was equally brilliant. These two are a pair to watch for sure!
Tony and Paris - Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon)
And here is where I talk about beef number 2 with Tab and Nap. They are often called upon to choreograph more than one routine per week for the show and when that happens, one will be ok (or even good) and the other will suck like a brand new vacuum. This one was not good. It was a more hard-edged hip hop which isn't their specialty so it was a bit...off. The costumes were distracting to say the least (I could not stop waiting for one of those headsets to fly off and put some one's eye out); the "stank face" attitude felt silly and forced; the end was just bad. But credit where it's due? I thought Paris did a great job with it. Tony on the other hand...for a kid who claims to be a hip hop dancer he was very much not good. Benji (West Coast Swing) and Pasha (Latin Ballroom) were about a thousand times more brilliant at hip hop than this fool.
Grade: Tony: D, Paris: B+
Jason and Caitlin - Bollywood (Nakul Dev Mahajan)
You can't blame Slumdog-fever for the inclusion of a Bollywood routine in these proceedings as they added this genre last year before the movie ever came out. But you can blame it for this routine being danced to "Jai Ho"! The Bollywood routines are very fast paced and full of fairly intricate hand work in addition to the whole-lotta-shit that's going on with their feet. There also tends to be a serious amount of jumping so these kids have to be in amazing shape just to get through it without passing clean out. I'd say that Jason and Caitlin did a lot more than just get through it, they were good. Jason's upper body wasn't quite as sharp as Caitlin's though and even she faltered a tiny bit once or twice. I couldn't help but compare them to Josh and Katee from last season (they fell a tad short) which I know I shouldn't, and they also weren't quite as good as some of the other couples tonight either.
Brandon and Janette - Foxtrot (Louis van Amstel)
I'm with Lil C where Brandon is concerned - I don't hate him like Mia does but I'm not as impressed with him as everyone else is. He's this year's Will for me - tell me as much as you want how brilliant he is, I get that he's got good technique but I feel nothing when he dances. Naturally I was predisposed not to be impressed with this routine because of my Will-ish feelings for Brandon but it was good. Very good. Janette was graceful and fluid and Brandon held his own; all-in-all I liked it a lot.
Kupono and Ashley - Jazz (Wade Robson)
Wade and his wife are balls-out crazy. I (mostly) mean that as a compliment. This routine was about two crash test dummies - one was old and frazzled from being in so many accidents and one was brand spanking new and full of enthusiasm and curiosity about the old one. Kupono pretty perfectly portrayed the nerves, jitters and fear of the old dummy and Ashley was a delight as the wide-eyed new dummy. The piece was inventive and fun and interesting and weird. A real joy to watch.
Ade and Melissa - Contemporary (Mandy Moore)
This is Choreographer Mandy Moore not Singer/Actress Mandy Moore in case you don't know that already. I have a girl crush on both. I know absolutely nothing about Ade aside from he's tall and he wears a pick in his 'fro. Melissa is a 29-year-old ballerina. Ballerina's tend to be stiff when they try other types of dance on this show (or at least the one other ballerina they've had on was) but Melissa was fantastic! Ade is strong and his movements are effortless. They are amazing together and I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see how they're going to do with whatever they get next. I always know someone has won me over when I just can't wait to see them dance again.
Max and Kayla - Samba (Louis van Amstel)
Mary put them right on the Hot Tamale Train and that was well deserved! Kayla blew me away with how perfectly she danced the Samba after never doing ballroom before in her life. She is really something to behold. Max was good too but it's his genre so I expect him to be good - that might not be fair but the bar is set really high on this show. We aren't prancing around with celebs here, we're talking about people for whom dance is their LIFE. As a couple, I'm really feeling them so far.
Prediction: Vitolio and Asuka, Jonathan and Karla, and Paris and Tony are the bottom three couples. Tony and Karla are going home.
(Photos courtesy of Fox Broadcasting)